Mark McGrath: ‘We’re champions and we will fight for that title’.
Three consecutive Shamrock Bowl titles is an impressive feat but for the Belfast Trojans, they have bigger aspirations. Today, they enter Dalymount Park with only one thought in mind; to win again. Victory today would see them surpass the UL Vikings in Shamrock Bowl wins as the Trojans look to put themselves into the elite status of football in Ireland. Ahead of the game, we got chatting to Head Coach Mark McGrath about the teams preparation ahead of kickoff.
The Trojans have looked unstoppable at times this season, showing clinical production on offence coupled with the ever reliable shutout defence. It’s been their third unbeaten year in the last four and signs are already pointing to more success in the future. The defending champions are itching to get going!
‘The squad is feeling excited and impatient about the final’, said McGrath, ‘We have our game plan in place and can’t wait for kickoff!’
The ‘Green Machine’ have had terrific depth in their squad for the last number of years, stacked in quality and Irish National team calibre players. If the past teams were good, it’s scary to think of the potential this years team possesses. Mark, who plays on both offence and defence, claims that compared to the other successful rosters in the past; the 2015 squad could be the best one.
‘In my opinion this years squad is our strongest to date. We have good depth in our squad, our D is formidable but what makes us different this year from others is how well our O has performed.’
The Trojans came out victors in last years final 7-0, overcoming the rain and gruesome weather to narrowly defeat this weekends opponents, Trinity College. Although they won the game, there is still plenty to be learnt from last seasons showpiece as Connor Whitla’s pick 6 was all that could separate the sides in difficult conditions, as the game so easily could have had opposite fortunes for the defending champions.
‘The main thing I have taken from last years final, and the regular season games before it, is that Trinity cannot be underestimated. We will need to bring our A game to beat them. We will be looking for our defence to step up again and play as well as they did last year. As for the offence, we moved the ball well in tough conditions last year but we will be hoping to put points on the board this year regardless of the weather’.
Belfast go about business in commanding and professional fashion. They set the bar high for rival teams to reach their standards year after year. With the upcoming rookies clinching the IAFL-2 trophy last weekend, the winning mentality established within the team has already worked its way through the entire squad. However, for a team that has had great amounts of success in recent years, how do you motivate a winning team to keep going?
‘Complacency is a big problem to fight, fortunately our team is full of very competitive guys who will push each other, which makes my job as Coach much easier. We try to keep training fresh and interesting and having an extra six games for our rookies to play in has really helped keep the squad focused. At this stage of the season it’s win or go home and my guys don’t need much motivation from me. We’re champions and we will fight for that title because it’s who we are.’
Trinity College will post as difficult opposition to face, as the last two encounters between the pair have proven. It’s been a terrific year for reigning champions, but it all comes down to one game to prove they are the best in the country. Both sides will be filled with emotion, nerves but a lot of optimism and so they should be. They have had great seasons up to this point, but only one team can take home the biggest honour in Irish American Football.
‘Obviously, Trinity are a very talented outfit but keys to victory for me are to play Trojan football. If we play our brand of football, there isn’t a team on this island that can beat us. This game, like the 3 before it is in our hands to win or lose and I personally can’t wait until the game to see my team lift another Shamrock Bowl!’
The Shamrock Bowl kicks off at 3pm today from Dalymount Park, Dublin.